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Archive for July, 2011

chibikko erin

So a few weeks ago, Noji’s mom mentioned that Noji’s brother would be in town for a little while in July and why don’t we all take a trip? Sounds fun! Then I heard the words ONSEN. Somehow I’d made it 3 years without getting naked in front of strangers in this country and this whole trip was going to mess all of that up! But between the whole “can’t eat fish” “is foreign” “refuses to birth half children” I couldn’t add “will not go to onsen” to the list so I just googled a million times “onsen etiquette” and tried not to be the lame, prudish American who doesn’t want to bathe publicly.

So we took the shinkansen to Gifu on Friday and slept the night there, then rented a car for all 7 of us to go to Nagano where we’d stay at a ryokan near the Central Alps for a night. Our first stop was Azumino-shi where we enjoyed:

1. Soba
2. Toukouji (had huge orange geta in the front and some crazy dark maze thing that I didn’t participate in)
3.  An herb/aromatherapy shop where everyone got herb-flavored soft cream
4.  Art Hills, a fancy little shop/museum where I bought some stationary and horrified Noji by eating a nectarine with the skin on
5.  Daiou Wasabi Farm where they sell wasabi-flavored everything. Wasabi chocolate, wasabi ice cream, wasabi wine, wasabi mayonaise. Apparently there are some beautiful famous watermills there but all I remember is being very hot and we left after eating ice cream. 😦

At that point, we drove to the ryokan and I got my first taste of a traditional Japanese inn. We put our bags down and then it was off to the onsen! “You don’t have to go if you don’t want to…” Nojimom said ominously. “NO I WANT TO GO!” Nojibro’s wife had also never experience an onsen so I figured we could be uncouth foreigners together, anyway. Noji did my yukata the dead person way and we all went down to the baths.

Basically the rules are: ladies and men go their separate ways, get super naked, take a full shower, then get in the hot springs. They had one inside (super hot and steamy) and one outside (just right!) and all us ladies had naked bonding time and it was fine! My face turned bright red (from the heat of the bath!) which didn’t go away for at least an hour and a half, but it was relaxing and not really as weird as I expected. All that worrying for nothing.

We did another bath before bed (well, except me, I was sleeping) and then one in the morning before breakfast, and then we were off to explore Nagano some more. Went to Kouzenji, another temple nearby which had all this neon-glowing moss on the walls and a shrine to a legendary dog Hayataro hellooo best temple ever. After that, we braved the 35C/95C temperatures and went to Matsumoto Castle. Matsumoto Castle is a pretty balling castle but it was so hot inside and the crowds were so thick that we bailed after about 20 minutes. Sorry castle! You all kind of look the same inside.

I think I was starting to get overheated and fussy around right…….. here, to be honest. I think I got bit by something that gave me a red rash all over both my arms for at least 5 days. But we had one more stop before we went home: Suwa Shrine! But it was under construction! Damn. So we got some dango at the service area and a few hours later we were home! Thanks mostly to Noji’s family, I’ve now gone to about 21 prefectures in Japan. This is way more than the like, 5 states I’ve been to in America.



The last day we said goodbye to Noji’s brother, who flew back to China that day, and shopped and ate with Noji’s parents and Koori before we went to the station. Noji and I are pretty lazy (see: entire weekend spent at home) so I don’t think we would get nearly as much done in a three day trip if it weren’t for Noji’s parents. Koori and I exchanged emails and we’ll go back in October for their wedding.

Oh, on the way home, I bought a Pierre Marcolini chocolate cake which I think I initially saw on Ai’s blog. It was a delicious and totally unnecessary indulgence after all the treats we’d had over the weekend.

Anyway, I didn’t take too many but I uploaded the rest of the pictures from the trip to Google+.

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WordPress just destroyed this massive post I wrote right as I was posting it ahhhh, but I will try to rewrite it the best I can.

So after work on Friday, I went straight from work to Tokyo Station and hopped on the shinkansen with Noji. We got to Gifu about 10pm and there we met the newest member of the Nojima fam: Koori, Noji’s brother’s wife. She moved a few months ago from Jiangsu, China, where Noji’s brother still works, to Gifu and is living with Noji’s parents and gramma. I’m sure there’s a lot of tension and dramz and stress involved on both sides but for the most part it seems like a functional arrangement– though not one I would choose for myself.

Toward the end of the trip, Noji’s mom started going through all the mistakes Koori makes in Japanese (“She says JIPPAN instead of JIIPAN!” which is barely even Japanese to begin with) and I felt a tiny bit of intense rage as though she was talking directly about me. I am a bit better at Japanese than Koori, but we’re both foreigners; we will make mistakes forever and ever, amen. Most of them won’t make any sense to a lot of Japanese people, because most of the intricacies of your native language are lost in the intuitiveness of it all.

Noji once mercilessly made fun of me for saying (knowing it was wrong! sometimes mistakes slip out) furui da. To quickly explain why this is wrong: in Japanese, there are adjectives (e.g. kawaii) and there are adjectival nouns (e.g. hen). Adjectives are inflected by dropping the final “i” and adding an ending, like verbs, and can’t take the predicate “da” (plain form copula) because the adjective itself serves as the predicate (I guess.) Adjectival nouns are basically treated a lot like nouns and are inflected by using the copula, so there’s no problem adding the predicate “da.”

Here’s a Japanese 101 example.

YES: Oishii. (It’s delicious.)
YES: Hen da. (It’s weird.)
NO: Oishii da.

BUT

YES: Oishii desu. (desu = polite form of da)
YES: Hen desu.

Confused yet? It’s actually not that hard of a rule, but for someone whose native language doesn’t differentiate the way adjectives or noun adjuncts or whatever are used, it’s still easy to slip up– even for someone like me with 1kyu (#humblebrag?). On the other hand, most Japanese people have never even heard of an adjectival noun but it still would never occur to them to make the same mistakes that non-natives do; the difference in usage is so natural it becomes almost invisible.

Here’s another example: Noji’s brother goes, laughing, “Sometimes Koori will tell me to kiru some pants and I tell her ‘how?'” In Japanese, they differentiate kiru (wear, upper body) and haku (wear, lower body). Koori and I bonded immediately: omg I do the same thing! Not to mention the different verbs for “wear a hat” and “wear glasses” and and and…

There are mistakes that native speakers make and there are mistakes that non-native speakers make, and then probably a little overlap between the two. But most people have no idea how absolutely insane their native language is until they teach it OR date a foreigner. Until then, I don’t want to here any sass outta any of you! My pride can’t take it.

Sigh. Rewriting a blog is never as satisfying as the first draft. In any case, next post will be all about our trip to Nagano! A preview:

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breaking news

It was one million degrees today. I melted, died, then was reconstituted into myself after entering air conditioning. Yesterday the rainy season ended, which means (even more) unending sunny 35C/95F days forever and ever or at least until sometime in September, at which point typhoon season starts. Pardon me while I go buy my summer house in Hokkaido. There is officially nothing that I like about summer at all. Don’t like being outside, don’t like the beach, don’t like the cicadas who die all over the place, don’t like eating soft serve ice cream, don’t like going to the pool, don’t like nothin’.

Next week we are going to Gifu to spend the long weekend with Noji’s family. Noji’s middle brother got married last year to a Chinese lady (he lives in China for work) and last month she moved by herself into the family house, so I can only imagine all the drama going on in that house. I like Noji’s family but there is no living with the in-laws in my future, thank you. Just me, Noji, and 17 cats all named Gorby in our Hokkaido summer house. I do think it’s interesting that 2/3 of the kids in Noji’s family are with foreign ladies. What are the odds? There’s an image that tons of Japanese ladies are marrying foreigners, but Japanese men marry about 3x more foreign ladies– they’re just mostly all Asian (Chinese, Filipino, and Korean to be exact). My arm-chair analysis of this data to come in another post.

Feeling braindead, I think it’s time to sleep. In Japan, they have a word for summer fatigue called 夏バテ which is exacerbated by the constant change in temperatures going in and outside. For me, this means feeling tired all the time and losing my appetite. Apparently eating eel helps? I think I will take a multivitamin instead. (Noji even helpfully pointed out ‘your eyebags look worse than usual! i think you need some nutrients.’ Thanks!!)

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These last few weeks have been so busy, and now it’s July. Tomorrow is the 4th of July but how to celebrate? Noji suggests: tacos. Close enough.

I have been falling behind on blogging and it’s almost 1am now here is my latest jam:

Japan is just rediscovering Korean pop, which beats Japanese artists in the areas of: swagger, ladies with long legs, weird English.

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